I’m going to run some numbers by you. Word of caution: they aren’t for the weak (numbers through Thursday’s game).
- 5.02 – the number of runs the Phillies’ pitching has allowed per nine innings, 29th in MLB
- 4.63 – team ERA, also 29th in MLB
- 4.35 – team FIP, also 29th in MLB
- 9.9 – hits per nine innings, last in MLB
- 3.3 – walks per nine innings, tied for 28th with Cincinnati
I could go on and on, but you get the picture. The Phillies’ pitching staff is bad, almost historically so. While the starting pitching has been bad, the bullpen, thought to be the strength of the team entering the season, hasn’t fared nearly as well as hoped.
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There have been bright spots, such as the way Jonathan Papelbon has performed despite constant trade speculation, or the pitch velocity of Ken Giles, who has regained almost 2 full miles per hour on his fastball since April.
However, something lost in all of the moaning about the Phillies’ bullpen (most of it deserved), is the silently effective production that the team has received from the unheralded Jeanmar Gomez this season.
Entering Friday’s game, Gomez has posted a 1.62 ERA in 39 innings of work. His BABIP (.295), cFIP (101) and DRA (2.41) marks each suggest that he’s performing at expected levels, so he is not likely due for some kind of massive regression.
Gomez is striking out slightly more batters, while walking slightly less. His groundball rate is pretty much in line with his career average, so why has the righthander been so effective?
Judging by his PITCHf/x numbers, he’s throwing his sinker slightly more than in years past, and seems to be getting more whiffs on that sinker than he has previously. Gomez is throwing pretty much everything in his arsenal harder as well.
Is this really all that there is? Is it just simply a matter of Gomez getting better, and being smarter with his pitches?
Aug 18, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA;
Gomez (30) pitches for the Pirates against the Atlanta Braves during the sixth inning at PNC Park.
(Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)
I know that Phillies pitching coach Bob McClure takes a lot of heat for the way he has handled the arms, but this could be one case where we as a fan base need to give credit where it is due. It would seem that McClure has taken the trend that Gomez was on in Pittsburgh last year and continued encouraging that same developmental path.
It is well documented that the pitching coach for the Pirates, Ray Searage, is some kind of wizard when it comes to conjuring up effective pitching performances out of “has beens” (cough, A.J. Burnett, cough). Gomez was a very effective long reliever for the Pirates in 2014, and that could solely be thanks to the Jedi-like teachings of Searage.
Perhaps McClure got a look at Gomez and thought, “Why try and fix what ain’t broken?“I wrote earlier this year about how Gomez might fit into the pitching plans of the team, and so far, he has exceeded pretty much everyone’s expectations.
Now, I will grant you that he hasn’t exactly been asked to hold leads or come into big situations. His gmLI (game-entering Leverage Index) is 0.5, meaning that the times he has entered games haven’t exactly been high pressure situations.
However, it’s not his fault that Ryne Sandberg continued to abuse De Fratus at a scary rate, and that he has only been used when the outcome of the game has pretty much been decided. It’s quite possible that the team knows what they are doing with Gomez, but that can easily be called into question considering the decisions already made this year.
Going into the second half of the season, it might be wise for new Phillies manager Pete Mackanin to consider using Gomez a bit more in those more pressurized situations. They can learn more about his ability to handle those, and also possibly maximize the club’s chances at winning what few winnable games they might play going forward.